Transparency advocates: Corruption exacerbates impact of pandemic

Published December 4, 2021, 11:26 AM

by Ben Rosario

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was made even more destructive by corruption in government, thus, should provide a “lesson learned” experience for Filipinos who will be given the chance to redirect the country’s fate in the coming years.

Corruption cartoon

Participants to the last session of recent Pilipinas Conference 2021 entitled “Recovering Philippine Democracy Beyond 2022 arrived at this conclusion.

During the conference organized by Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi), transparency and good governance advocates discussed their thoughts on how the country could move forward with the challenges posed by the pandemic.

They also extensively shared knowledge and ideas on how to address the still unsolved massive corruption in government and the misuse of resources intended for the poorest of the poor.

Commission on Audit Chairman Michael Aguinaldo and retired Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales were among the speakers of the event.

“It’s not just Stratbase that said this. Filipinos want their leaders to have concern for the poor, to be honest and trustworthy, and to not be corrupt. We commissioned surveys to show the preference of people across various locations and demographic groups,” said Prof. Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase ADRi.

Aguinaldo noted that citizens have a decisive role to play in the running of government.

“The key to recovering democracy beyond 2022 is to provide ways by which the people can feel they are a part of government apart from merely voting for representatives,” the COA chief said.

It is Aguinaldo’s agency that led to the conduct of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry into the highly questionable P44-billion COVID-19 supply procurement program of the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management and the Department of Health in 2020, more popularly known as the Pharmally scandal.

At the resumption of the hearing on Friday, tax experts said there was a strong possibility of “ghost deliveries” involving billions of pesos.

Aguinaldo said the Constitution recognizes the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision making.

“There are various avenues where citizens can be made to feel that they are a part of government,” he said.

Aguinaldo cited the COA’s Citizen Participatory Audit, which was established almost a decade ago, where ordinary citizens and non-governmental organizations work side by side with auditors assisting them in the conduct of performance audits of government project.

“Ordinary folk and NGOs have seen first-hand specific government projects and programs, learned about the challenges and difficulties in implementation, and help to assess the effectiveness, efficiency, and at times the economy of these particular projects,” Aguinaldo said.

Carpio-Morales, former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, delivered the opening remarks and stated the essential elements of a democracy in the United Nations General Assembly resolution: separation and balance of power, independence of the judiciary, pluralistic system of political parties and organization, respect for the rule of law, transparency and accountability, free and independent media, and respect for political and human rights.

“We have to be clear that democracy cannot co-exist with dictatorship or any tendencies thereof,” she said.

“But it appears we have entered a new era of convenience democracy, using it only to justify our rights to about everything, but dismissing its very essence in our ways and conduct,” she said.

“Democracy is not an anything-goes form of government. It is not tolerant of abuses in the guise of a right.” Carpio-Morales said that based on these elements, or their absence, “our democracy is sick, and it cannot stand another blow from a hand that has no regard for it.” “Accountability is not limited to being able to determine who is at fault, but extends to the government’s capacity to be answerable to the people and to provide solutions and to redeem itself after failure,” she said.